Service so subtle


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Too often, exceptional customer service is associated with breathless, over-the-top actions by employees that capture headlines such as Ritz-Carlton’s Joshie the Giraffe, Morton’s Steakhouse airport delivery, or Frontier Airlines’ pizza delivery. While these illustrations are memorable and inspiring (not to mention, a lot of fun for the employees involved), they are inaccurate representations of what it means to provide exceptional customer service.

I agree that “wowing” customers is gratifying and, oftentimes, leaves a lasting positive impression on customers. When this is elective, it allows employees to display initiative and exercise creativity by performing outside the constraints of a defined job description. It’s liberating for employeeGinger-Bread-House-no-lightss and challenges the likelihood that they will describe their jobs as predictable, boring, and monotonous. But when these “service heroics” are required in order to compensate for a flawed process or service model, as author Anne Morriss notes in her book Uncommon Service, “The cape gets heavy.”

Most examples of exceptional customer service, however, do not involve leaping tall buildings in a single bound. They’re much more subtle than that. Exceptional customer service is the difference between recklessly jamming a coat into a coat check closet and cossetting the coat by flattening its lapels while hanging it between coats. It’s the difference between indifferently schlepping a shopping bag over the counter and walking a customer’s purchases around the counter to hand her directly. It’s the subtle difference between responding to a customer request with “No problem” versus “Certainly” or “Right away.”Ginger-Bread-House-with-lights

If you really want to elevate the quality of customer service that you provide to your customers, don’t look to emulate the heroic feats of Ritz-Carlton, Morton’s Steakhouse, or Frontier Airlines. Like a salesman who neglects daily prospecting while awaiting a return phone call from that “big fish” he’s been courting, this is not the best use of your time and energy. Instead, focus on subtle service enhancements like expressing genuine interest in your customers by asking questions, paying attention to detail, or displaying a sense of urgency. These are example of little things that will leave BIG impressions.

The two images above of the gingerbread house are from my holiday card this year. The first image is on the outside of the card. And the second image is on the inside of the card. And the card’s interior message illustrates the point of this blog post: The difference between ordinary and extraordinary really is that little “extra.”

Happy Holidays from snowy Colorado!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Curtin
Steve Curtin is the author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. He wrote the book to address the following observation: While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employers. After a 20-year career with Marriott International, Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.


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